You Don’t Say! Wordless Cartoons from the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor

February 21, 2014

MEDIA CONTACT: Michelle Jeffers
(415) 557-4282;

You Don’t Say! Wordless Cartoons from
the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor

Exhibition at San Francisco Main Library Opens April 1, 2014

Picture story, pantomime, cartoon without words—these are some of the terms for comics and cartoons in which the characters depicted remain silent. Speech balloons and thought clouds almost never interfere with the cartoon itself, and the joke or punch line is universally understood. A centuries old art form, the cartoon without words essentially evolved out of the eighteenth century caricature. As it developed in the nineteenth century, the cartoon without words was separate from, but still a part of, the cartoon and comic strip movement. Emerging out of this pantomime world were cartoon artists whose work influenced and still delights readers, contemporary cartoonists, and scholars around the world.

You Don’t Say! Wordless Cartoons from the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor draws on the Library’s collection of works by the wordless cartoon masters of the nineteenth through the twenty-first century, and their historical influences. On display are the published works of A.B. Frost, H.M. Bateman, Otto Soglow (“The Little King”), Carl Anderson (“Henry”), Marge (“Little Lulu”), Milt Gross (“She Done Him Wrong”), Mik (“Ferd’nand”), e.o. plauen (“Vater und Sohn”), Sam Cobean, George Baker (“The Sad Sack”), Antonio Prohias (“Spy vs. Spy”), and many more. The exhibition opens April 1 in the Skylight Gallery, Sixth Floor, Main Library, and continues through May 31.

In conjunction with You Don’t Say! the Library presents silent films throughout April, with the film series Thursdays at Noon in the Koret Auditorium. The lineup features Silent Movie (April 3), City Lights (April 10), Modern Times (April 17), and The Artist (April 24). All films are shown with captions when possible to assist the deaf and hard of hearing.

On April Fools’ Day, 1947, Nat Schmulowitz, local attorney and Library Trustee, gave ninety-three jest books to the San Francisco Public Library. He faithfully continued to add toward the establishment of what is now considered the world’s largest public collection of wit & humor.

Located in the Book Arts & Special Collections Center, the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor (SCOWAH) contains more than 23,000 books, 250 periodical titles, media and ephemera, as well as the personal archive of Nat Schmulowitz. This extraordinary collection reflects the eclectic humor of its founder, whose motto still resonates: “Without humor we are doomed.” The annual SCOWAH exhibition, which opens every April Fools’ Day, is a tribute to Mr. Schmulowitz’s generosity and lifelong interest in the Library.

The Marjorie G. and Carl W. Stern Book Arts & Special Collections Center is home to the Grabhorn Collection on the History of Printing & the Development of the Book, the Harrison Collection of Calligraphy & Lettering, the Fox Collection of Early Children’s Books, and the Little Maga/Zine Collection, as well as other special collections.

All programs at the Library are Free. For more information, please call (415) 557-4277.